NORMAN — To understand the problems that plague public education in Chile, it's important to remember the number 40, activist Mario Waissbluth said.
Fewer than 40 percent of Chilean students attend preschool. About 40 percent graduate from high school without basic reading comprehension skills. And teachers in public schools earn about 40 percent less than other equally qualified professionals in the country.
Public education in Chile has been systematically attacked for the past 30 years, Waissbluth said. The latest development is a group of for-profit companies running charter schools, he said. The schools receive government subsidies and charge parents extra fees.
“That has created an extremely segregated system where only children with poor performance are relegated to public schools,” he said.
Waissbluth, founder of the advocacy group Educacion 2020, participated in a symposium for Latin American activists this week at the University of Oklahoma. The event is a part of the College of International Studies' Year of International Activism, a series of events that deal with activist movements around the world.
Alan McPherson, a professor in the Department of International and Area Studies, said the symposium is intended to give activists an opportunity to learn from each other's successes and failures.
The symposium also exposes OU students to actual activists who are working for social change, rather than faculty members discussing those changes, McPherson said.